Defence Secretary Leon Panetta expressed frustration with Islamabad, warning that the U.S. will not allow the attacks on U.S. forces from Pakistan-based insurgents like the Haqqani network to continue.
Pointing to the 20-hour assault against the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul that finally ended Wednesday, Mr. Panetta said it is unacceptable that the Haqqanis are able to launch such deadly attacks and then flee to safe havens across the border in Pakistan.
“The message they need to know is- we’re going to do everything we can to defend our forces,” Mr. Panetta told reporters travelling with him to San Francisco for meetings with Australian officials.
He refused to say whether the U.S. plans to take any new military actions, but there has been an escalating U.S. campaign of drone strikes into Pakistan’s border regions.
“Time and again we’ve urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis, and we have made very little progress in that area,” Mr. Panetta said. “I’m not going to talk about how we’re going to respond. ... We’re not going to allow these types of attacks to go on.”
U.S. officials have blamed the Haqqani network for the nearly daylong assault on the heavily guarded Afghan capital. The attack left 27 dead, including police, civilians and attackers, officials said.
The Haqqanis use the Pakistan’s North Waziristan territory to launch attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces across the border.
No NATO or U.S. Embassy employees were hurt in the Kabul attack that ended around dawn on Wednesday. Eleven Afghan civilians were killed, more than half of them children, said U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Five Afghan police officers were also killed, along with 11 insurgents.
Asked whether the attack raised concerns about the Afghans’ ability to take over their own security, Mr. Panetta said that overall their response was good. He repeated U.S. assertions that the violence levels in Afghanistan continue to decline, and that the Taliban has been weakened.
“These kinds of sporadic attacks and assassination attempts are more a reflection of the fact that they are losing their ability to be able to attack our forces on a broader scale,” Mr. Panetta said.